Chapter 30 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 31 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 32 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 33 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 34 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 35 (#litres_trial_promo)
American Dream (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 36 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 37 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 38 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 39 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 40 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 41 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 42 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 43 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 44 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 45 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 46 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 47 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 48 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 49 (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter 50 (#litres_trial_promo)
Author Note (#litres_trial_promo)
Questions for Discussion (#litres_trial_promo)
Tiger Cub (#u4afabb2e-99d7-5a54-a074-ee1622a50d47)
Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.
—FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
The truth is, immigrants tend to be more American than people born here.
—CHUCK PALAHNIUK, CHOKE
FIRST YOU HAVE to hollow out. Suck your belly button back against your spine. Pull up toward your rib cage. Maintain eye contact. Remember to breathe. Feel your muscles tighten. Make yourself compact. Lift up. Fly. Attitude is everything. Believe you can do that stunt. Stay tight. Smile. Keep everything together as you’re twisting through the air. Trust yourself. Trust your team. Let doubt creep in and you’ll fall—plus, you’ll let down the whole squad, and that’s the worst thing you can do as cheer captain, other than bossing everyone around like an aggro queen bee.
There’s no one more intense than a cheerleader—although according to every Hollywood movie ever made, we’re a bunch of ditzy, boy-crazy backstabbers. As if.
Don’t they get it? Cheerleaders are part of a team, and a good team trusts each other. Because the only thing stopping you from cracking your head open on the gym floor is your teammates.
Cheer makes you tough.
“Hit. Hit. Hit. Pull!” Coach Davis shouts, her voice echoing against the gym walls. We jump three times in a row, extending our arms and legs into perfect toe touches, then tuck, flipping backward onto the mats.
Everyone sticks the tuck except for Kayla. She’s been struggling with her tumbling even though she used to be one of the best tumblers on the team. Her mind has been somewhere else for a while, worried about her parents, who aren’t getting along too well. I make a mental note to ask her how she’s doing after practice, maybe offer to help her brush up on some moves before she gets put on probation or kicked off the squad. She’s my best friend, but we haven’t hung out much since I’ve been studying for midterms and trying to get my college applications done.
“Keep your feet together, Santos,” Coach barks at me. “They’re wobbling on your landing.”
I nod even though I’m annoyed that she singled me out and didn’t say anything to Kayla. I know Coach is bringing me down a notch on purpose. She doesn’t want me to end up with an oversize ego. That’s why I got voted captain in the first place—I know you have to sacrifice yourself for the team, for the stunt, or else everything falls apart like a crumbling pyramid.
Sometimes the other girls tease me. You’re so perfect, Jasmine. You do everything right. You were junior class president. Cheer captain. Honor Roll. Volunteering. Don’t you ever get tired?
Never, I say with a smile. Except the truth is I’m always tired, but I can never admit it, not to my friends, especially not to my family.
“Let’s run through the routine until the end of practice,” Coach orders. She walks over to the sound system to start the music.
Most of the girls start taking their positions, but Emily crosses her arms. “I’m exhausted. I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” Her cheeks are flaming red on her Irish complexion.
“Don’t be a drama queen,” Deandra says, whipping her dark braids like the queen of the Nile. She looks like Halle Berry, but prettier with gorgeous naturally thick eyelashes. “You’re only tired because you stayed up texting Brandon all night.”
“He likes my texts.” Emily grins. She raises one eyebrow like she’s holding on to a juicy secret. “Creative emojis.”
I tell them to hush. It’s my senior year and last chance to win at Nationals. If we want to win this time, the whole team has to be serious about practice. We don’t have any time not to be on point.
“Positions!” I yell out.